Wednesday, January 31, 2007

AUSTRALIA DENIES SOLOMONS PLOT

Australia denies Solomons plot.
By Phil Mercer BBC News, Sydney

Manasseh Sogavare's ties with Australia are strained. Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has denied an allegation his government offered a bounty for the murder of his counterpart in the Solomon Islands.
An Australian man has been charged in the Solomon Islands with conspiring to assassinate PM Manasseh Sogavare.
Mr Sogavare has been at the centre of a diplomatic row with Australia.
An Australian newspaper has published what it said were police documents that claimed assassins had planned to murder Mr Sogavare for money.
The paper said the bounty of $39,000 (£20,000) was sponsored by Australia.
The suggestion has drawn a rather bemused response from Mr Howard.
He said he knew very little about the alleged plot and denied any involvement in it.
"Did we try and get anybody to assassinate the prime minister of the Solomon Islands? Of course not," he said.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also denied being part of any conspiracy.
In a statement, officials said the allegation was preposterous.
An Australian expatriate has been charged with plotting to kill Manasseh Sogavare.
Bill Johnson has been living in the Solomon Islands for more than a decade.
Lawyers for the 61-year-old war veteran said the charges against him were crazy.
They have insisted the prosecution's evidence amounted to nothing more than drunken conversation.
Mr Johnson his due back in court in the Solomon's capital, Honiara, next week.
Four other men have also been accused of planning to kill the prime minister.
Diplomatic relations between the Solomon Islands and Australia have been strained in recent months.
The Sogavare government is refusing to extradite its attorney-general Julian Motie, an Australian citizen who is wanted by the authorities in Canberra on child sex charges.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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